Here is a guest post from my BloggingGhana colleague Nana Darkoa from the trip she took to Zanzibar on behalf of the group.
Three flights, two transfers and a 1-hour bus journey later, I arrived at Melia Hotel on the island of Zanzibar. My first view of Zanzibar was an aerial view from Precision Air. It was like looking at a picture of all those idyllic places I have only ever seen on postcards and what I imagined places like the Maldives, Tobago and yes, Zanzibar to look like.
The bus waiting to take us to the hotel was trotro-like but the hotel was like no destination any trotro would go to. Melia hotel sprawls across at least a 100 acres of fertile land, and is covered in lush vegetation, hibiscus flowers and various species of trees. This was the destination for a ‘Tech Camp’ for finalists of the African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC). I was there with Nehemiah Attigah to represent Blogging Ghana, a network of over 200 bloggers based in Ghana, of Ghanaian heritage or blogging about Ghana.
The very first night we arrived at Tech Camp, there was a networking event on a jetty, which overlooked the Indian Ocean. After downing 2 glasses of red wine, and indulging in canapés I participated in a speed networking event where I had to explain Blogging Ghana’s project to groups of up to 8 people. Then I had to repeat details of the project to the next group. I must have done this repetition to about 8 different groups. Justin Arenstein, ANIC’s Manager happened to be standing next to me the first couple of times I explained Blogging Ghana’s project, and I think it was in my second go round that I mentioned that Blogging Ghana had 200 members. “Ah, you should remember to mention that” he said, and so I did…throughout the Tech Camp, and this was a detail that seemed to impress people.
Training at the Tech Camp lasted for 3 days…the day of the speed networking on the agenda had been described as ‘day zero’ so depending on how you like to count, the tech camp was 3 or 4 days. Highlights for me included:
- Learning about data visualisation – Blogging Ghana’s big idea is to build a data website which would provide data sourced from civil society organisations on one easy platform. It is our hope that this will become the go to site for members of the media wishing to write original content. This way, our journalism is driven by facts and figures sourced from Ghana (and, perhaps, in time the rest of the continent).
- Learning about all the different technological innovations out there – mapping projects, innovative examples of citizen journalism and the various ways in which mobile applications are meeting multimedia platforms. For someone who loves technology yet is not a geek, it was wonderful to share the same learning space with geeks from all over the world.
- Meeting developers and innovators from my home country Ghana. There were 4 project finalists from Ghana – ACT Now, Code for Ghana, Truth Gauge and Blogging Ghana. It felt good to know that innovation and entrepreneurship is alive amongst a sector of the youth in Ghana (*ahem* not counting myself amongst the youth in Ghana). The largest delegation came from South Africa, which perhaps was only to be expected. However, I was surprised that there was only 1 black South African amongst the South African tech finalists.
Tech Camp is over now and I’m writing this on a bumpy Fly540 flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi. From there I have a 7 and a half hour layover, before getting on a flight to Addis Ababa. My mind boggles at catching a flight to Addis before connecting to Accra but I know the organisers of Tech Camp had to fly about 80 people to Zanzibar on a budget. Once this trial of a journey is over, I am looking forward to submitting a final proposal to ANIC and hoping that Blogging Ghana gets the jump start it needs to encourage data-driven journalism in Ghana.
Thanks, Nana for your report and hope to have you safely back in Ghana soon!
Watch this space for updates on our proposal.